Bridging West, emerging countries must be taken into consideration

If Japan and Europe build a closer cooperative relationship it will lead to the deterrence of China, which continues its hegemonic activities.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has held talks with the leaders of the European Union in Belgium and agreed to establish a Japan-EU Strategic Dialogue on security.

The dialogue is a framework in which officials at the foreign-minister level hold talks on a regular basis. It is aimed at enhancing exchanges between experts in such areas as maritime security and cybersecurity.

The Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement went into effect in 2019, accelerating cooperation in areas such as trade and investment. It is highly significant to extend this cooperative relationship to security as well.

Prior to his meeting with the EU leaders, Kishida held talks with North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Lithuania. The two leaders released a document aimed at deepening defense cooperation between Japan and NATO.

Last autumn, senior military personnel of NATO participated in Japan-U.S. joint drills in the Nansei Islands. Last month, senior Air Self-Defense Force personnel joined NATO exercises in Germany as observers.

In light of the agreement this time, it will be important for uniformed officers to deepen communication on a constant basis.

Europe has become more willing to cooperate with Japan because it is becoming increasingly vigilant toward a rising China.

“We know that Indo-Pacific security and European security are indivisible,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a joint press conference with Kishida, expressing her willingness to be actively involved in the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

However, it would be premature to assume that these developments indicate a cooling of relations between Europe and China.

France objected to the idea of NATO opening a liaison office in Tokyo. It is believed that France was trying to avoid a situation where greater Japan-NATO cooperation would provoke China.

China continues its coercive activities around Taiwan and is expanding its military footholds in the South China Sea. The Japanese government must persistently appeal to the international community to address these behaviors.

However, no matter how strong the solidarity becomes among Western nations, that alone will not be enough to restore the international order.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened the confrontation between the West and nations such as China and Russia. At the same time, some emerging and developing countries are positioning themselves as not taking sides.

Japan has a proven record of supporting developing countries through the government’s official development assistance (ODA) program and building good relationships with them over the years.

It is important for Japan to use its strength to serve as a bridge between Western nations and emerging and developing countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2023)